Sunday Morning~ Blantyre

Sunday Morning~ Blantyre

Njovu ziwiri zikamamenyana ndi udzu omwe umavutike~ When two elephants fight, it is the grass that is in trouble.    Malawian Proverb

June 25, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I’m getting a late start today because I decided to skip mass. I feel like I went to enough mass last week to last me for a bit. So, we got up late, had a nice breakfast of fried sweet potatoes and omelet with cheese and radish-greens. I thinned out the little radishes growing nicely from the seeds that Jordan brought, and gave some color to the meal. Now with a full tummy, Bach in the background, and birds chirping in the foreground I can sip my tea and write in great comfort. There are many aspects of life here that can’t be beat when you’ve got a job and food.

We don’t have a guard this morning, so we have the place to ourselves. That also feels nice. Chimwemwe is taking a course on Saturday (his day off) and Sunday (a work day, but we give him the morning off) to learn plumbing skills. He’s already a plumber, but is taking an advanced course. I guess this means he will leave us someday for a better paying job. I’m rather hoping he waits until we leave for that, a selfish desire on my part. I wish him well; he works so hard. I fantasize about what my garden would look like at home with a full time gardener.

We had five guests staying with us this week and the house was full and lively. They were fabulous guests and fun to be with. And having guests makes us see the country with fresh eyes; sights that we have become accustomed to get a new highlight. The house seems downright empty now, though that will fill with two others arriving this evening. With the bedrooms full this week, George and I set up our tent in the backyard and slept out there. Our guests protested, but I was ready with the counter argument and we prevailed. We could have slept on the couches in the living room, or had one of the guests stay there, but it would be hard to hang the mosquito net and it’s miserable to try and sleep without one. It’s also dangerous and not worth risking malaria. We’re up early and it is nice to not have someone in the living space or have to put the bedding away every morning. Plus we like sleeping in the tent. I mean, I have always loved sleeping in a tent and can’t believe I found someone else who loves it too. It was fun. (Joe used to argue with me when I suggested it: “We have a house! Why do you want to sleep in a tent?!”) The guards thought it was hilarious and worried we would be too cold. I think they believe we are very soft and delicate. And compared to them we are but, they were impressed with this new breed of mzungu. It also gave us an opportunity to work out a few kinks for the camping trip we plan to take next year through Namibia.

It’s overcast and cold. Well, cold for here. It’s probably 65 degrees, but it feels like I want to put on socks. I mentioned to my driver this week how surprised I was that there were still clouds since the rain has stopped. He told me this is what winter in Blantyre is like. Very cloudy and cold. Not until September will the clouds disappear and get very hot.

George leaves on Wednesday for Maine and a well-earned vacation. It’ll be an adjustment being here alone for a month. It’s funny how quickly I have reverted to being a pack animal. I have plenty of stuff to get done and don’t feel like I’ll be lonely. And I certainly don’t feel unsafe. But I’m making a list of all the chores that George does and realize I have to learn how to do a few of them. We buy our electricity in bundles, just like our phone time. There is a meter on the wall outside the kitchen and when the power runs out we have to buy another bundle which comes with a number. Then George punches the number somewhere (I have to find out where) on the meter which shows we paid, then the power comes back on. It’s a little more sophisticated than dropping coins into the slot for a warm shower, but the same idea. It’s actually quite efficient and the power company doesn’t have to supply power to those who don’t pay.

Speaking of electricity, I see that my Maine electric bill has exploded. It’s five times what it used to be. I know more power is being used than when I lived there alone, but, unless they are growing pot with grow lights, this seems a bit off. I need to check this out when I get home next month. I want to have the house looked at to see if I can go solar. It’s always been a dream of mine to be off the grid. With such a big house I don’t know if it’s possible, but I’m going to research it. Then I need to figure out a heating system where I don’t rely on propane or oil. I’m ready to invest. We’ve got to stop having power companies rule our lives and politics.  I enjoy electricity and a warm house as much as the next person, but there is a better way.

Friday we got an official notice that because of the several recent accidents involving minibuses the police were cracking down on their overloading. They had to limit the number of passengers and couldn’t carry bags of freight anymore. Lots of these busses had the hatch just tied down because the back was so overloaded. That makes them unsteady and easily flip when they have to veer to avoid something. It’s been an issue causing many deaths. So the drivers went on strike to protest this new enforcement of the existing laws. This made absolutely no sense to me. What they hoped to gain by striking, I do not know. Maybe the police would be so inconvenienced by the paucity of bribes that day, they’d stop enforcing the law? I’m not sure. Anyway, Friday there were no minibuses and it was rather nice to be on the roads. But that was the day I was supposed to go out to the orphanage to start the permagarden project.  A traditional Peace Corps volunteer named Noah, has experience with it and he was going to take the minibus to meet me and help with the project. Around 9 o’clock I got a message from him that he was having a hard time getting transportation because of the strike. At 10 he sent a message saying he got a ride on a cement truck, then found a minibus that was breaking the strike and he was on his way. We were supposed to meet at 11. He told me he’d keep me posted. At 10:17 I got a call from him saying he was turning around and going back to his site. The minibuses that were breaking the strike were getting teargassed. It was unclear to me who was throwing the teargas, the police or the other drivers, but I had to cancel our afternoon of gardening at the orphanage. So the elephants were fighting and the grass was suffering. We’ll do it Friday this week. By yesterday afternoon, some agreement had been made, or the drivers realized they would make no money while on strike, or something, because all was back to normal and they were careening through the city just like before.

Have a good week everyone. I’m getting excited about being in Maine in a month!

Love to all,